B2B Sales Managers should only deploy Coaching Effort when the outcome of that allocation of time will result in the emergence of a Force Multiplier Rep on their sales team.
Like a swinging hammer, which is an example of a force multiplier at work, a Force Multiplier Rep will “multiply” the influence of the Sales Manager across the entire sales team. In some ways, a Force Multiplier Rep’s influence on his or her peers may be even greater than the Sales Manager’s influence on them. This is human nature, isn’t it?
The Enemy: Random Acts of Coaching (RAC)
What B2B Sales Managers need to avoid, at all costs, are RANDOM ACTS of COACHING (RAC). Coaching Effort should be strategically and purposely deployed ONLY in the pursuit of developing future Force Multiplier Reps.
I recognize this coaching advice may not be aligned with conventional thinking, which is to allocate even more coaching resources to the reps who are struggling rather than to those who are not.
But except for a formal PIP plan (Performance Improvement Plan), I think allocating time equally across the sales team (regardless of other factors) will produce diminished returns over the long-term.
RAC Cannot Be Replicated, It’s Random
Unfortunately I hear examples of RAC a lot when I talk with Sales Managers in my Business Advisor Training (BAT) and CRED Training workshops. I get this opportunity since the Sales Managers of participants are invited to attend workshops as Table Team Coaches.
By definition, RAC cannot be replicated as a best practice (or trained for that matter) therefore it is not a viable coaching strategy. Yet I have a hunch that busy Sales Managers (that’s all of them) deploy RAC quite frequently, even “in the moment” RAC, with all members of their direct-report sales team. Everyone on the team gets an equal share of RAC. No coaching strategy is needed, just a lot of time.
Well I’ve developed a different point of view based on my experience coaching Sales VPs and their direct-report Sales Managers to coach their team, and I would like to share it with you.
Stop “RAC Coaching” and Start “FORCE MULTIPLIER Coaching”
Rather than Random Acts of Coaching, Force Multiplier Coaching starts by the Sales Manager answering 2 questions: (1) WHOM should I coach, and (2) WHAT should I coach with this selected rep?
Any Coaching Effort expended beyond this purposeful strategy is stealing valuable time of the Sales Manager to perform other critical duties aside from Coaching. I think front-line Sales Managers have the HARDEST job in the B2B sales organization, with lots of balls in the air and pressure to keep them aloft. Coaching Effort needs to be strategically and purposefully exerted.
First Step, Select WHOM to Coach?
If you want to produce Force Multiplier Reps, I encourage Sales Managers to follow these steps. For help, refer to the quadrants in the image at the top of this post.
You’ll notice there are 2 axes: Performance (high and low) and Peer Influence Potential (high and low). Look at the attributes for each axis below and plot every rep on your sales team within these quadrants.
High-Performing reps have these attributes:
- Consistently above-quota
- Completely understands job responsibilities
- Regularly recognized for high-performance results
High Peer-Influence Potential reps have these attributes:
- Highly “coachable” and “trainable” (doesn’t get defensive)
- First to absorb and try out new concepts and skills
- Highly respected by colleagues/peers (MOST IMPORTANT)
- Willingly helps others/peers (without being asked to)
- Right customer mindset (customer-first)
- Willing team player (gives up the ball)
- Not strictly wedded to job description
- Capable of achieving “quick hit wins” by applying coaching and learning
Focus Your Coaching Efforts on “A” and “B” Quadrant Reps
Start allocating your Coaching Efforts with the “A” quadrant reps. These sales team members represent the BEST OPPORTUNITY for Sales Managers to leverage their influence (a Force Multiplier) across the sales team, especially on the “B” and “C” quadrant reps.
Once an “A” quadrant rep achieves a “quick hit win” by applying your coaching advice, give them a platform to share with their peers HOW they changed their behavior and achieved this quick success. Their influence will bring others (including the doubters) along in the same direction. If this happens, you should stand back (purposely) at this point and simply admire the power and leveraging influence of a Force Multiplier Rep.
Next, turn your Coaching Efforts to the “B” quadrant reps. These reps have real potential given their high-influence among other reps on your team. But there is something limiting their performance and ability to achieve above-plan results. Do some root cause analysis. Look for personal productivity issues, such as time management skills issues or communication/presentation/negotiation skills issues. Seek out the perspectives of other Sales Managers about this rep.
What about the “C” and “D” Quadrant Reps?
The “C” quadrant reps are team members you’ve got to LOVE for their ability to fill pipeline and achieve quota, year after year. But for some reason (at least unknown to you), they tend to be “lone wolfs”. They aren’t particularly helpful to you as a coach because they don’t take the effort to exert a positive influence on their peers.
I’ve found that “C” quadrant reps may in fact be “team players”, but they’ve never been asked to lead the team. Try to get them shifted over to the “A” quadrant by giving them more visibility and formal platforms to share their secrets to success with the broader sales team. Give them plenty of rope and independence (which they thrive on) to create how and when this testimonial sharing is done.
The “D” quadrant reps may or may not be on a formal PIP plan, but Force Multiplier Coaching is all about purposely selecting how and where you allocate your scarce coaching time. So re-focus your Coaching Efforts back on the “A” and “B” reps in order to have a better chance of quickly producing a Force Multiplier Rep.
Next, Determine WHAT to Coach (Tip: Focus on Your Desired “Customer-Facing” Behaviors)
Now that you’ve narrowed the coaching focus to “A” and “B” quadrant reps, the next step is to isolate WHAT to coach. “Coaching” can be an abstract subject and it can mean different things to different people. But I suggest you focus specifically on the CUSTOMER-FACING behaviors of these reps.
Unwanted customer-facing behaviors could manifest themselves in a number of areas, including pre-call preparation, message development, delivery of customer conversations and presentations, negotiation and closing, and follow up actions.
The skills improvement underpinning those unwanted behaviors could include territory/account planning skills, customer researching skills, customer analysis/insight development skills, customer business/financial acumen skills, and C-level communication skills.
Remember, you are trying to leverage your influence across your sales team by developing Force Multiplier Reps. So choose purposely WHAT you want to coach based on the customer-facing behaviors you would want them to execute in the field.
For example, when we are asked by our clients to conduct Sales Manager Coaching workshops, we provide them with checklists detailing the Critical Success Factors (the customer-facing skills and behaviors) required to successfully implement the learnings associated with our Business Advisor Training (BAT) and CRED Training workshops.
Following our workshops, Sales Managers are asked to immediately identify the “A” and “B” quadrant reps and put in place a 60-day Force Multiplier Coaching Plan around WHAT to coach (the CSFs) that would support the implementation of BAT and CRED Training skills and behaviors in the field with customers.
Final Suggestions and Reminders
- Focus your Coaching Efforts on developing Force Multiplier Reps. Avoid, at all cost, Random Acts of Coaching dispensed equally across your sales team.
- Develop a Force Multiplier Coaching Plan specifically detailing WHOM to coach and WHAT to coach. Share it with your Sales Manager peers and ask them for feedback.
- Take extra effort to collaborate with your fellow Sales Managers. Share plans and “best practice” coaching ideas, using the Force Multiplier Coaching framework as a guide. As a group, you are definitely stronger together sharing ideas and getting additional outside points of view.
- Most importantly, lead by example and coach “in the moment”. Your direct-report reps watch your every action (especially your customer-facing behaviors) and they listen to every word (for consistency and alignment to your coaching message). Your reps want and need to get instant feedback from you to reinforce desired behaviors. They are particularly attentive during times of stress and pressure, not when things are running smoothly. Periods of stress and pressure are when many Sales Managers let their guard down and reveal their real personality and motivations. Don’t let that happen to you!
- Do you agree with my point of view on coaching to develop Force Multiplier Reps?
- What are some SECRETS you might share with other Sales Managers?